These small group studies of Habakkuk contain outlines, cross-references, Bible study discussion questions, teaching points, and applications.  Visit our library of inductive Bible studies for more in depth inductive studies on this and other books of the Bible you can use in your small group.

Habakkuk 1 Inductive Bible Study – How Could You, Lord?

Outline

I. Habakkuk asks why God tolerates sin in Judah (1-4)
II. God answers that He will judge their sin (5-11)
III. Habakkuk asks why God uses the wicked to punish Judah (12-17)

I. Habakkuk asks why God tolerates sin in Judah (1-4)

Discussion Questions

At what time period in Judah’s history is this written? How do you know?
What does the text tell us about Habakkuk?
How would you describe Habakkuk’s attitude in this chapter?
Why is he confused?
What is the core problem he is asking God about?
Is Habakkuk being prideful to talk to God like this? Should he remain quiet rather than testing God? Why or why not?
Are there any lessons we can learn from him about prayer?
What are things you see in this world that may confuse?
When you have doubts or confusion about your experiences or things you witness, how should you deal with it before God?

Cross-References

Psalm 33:5 – He loves righteousness and justice; the earth is full of the steadfast love of the Lord.

Deuteronomy 32:4 – The Rock, his work is perfect, for all his ways are justice. A God of faithfulness and without iniquity, just and upright is he.

Isaiah 61:8 – For I the Lord love justice; I hate robbery and wrong; I will faithfully give them their recompense, and I will make an everlasting covenant with them.

Isaiah 30:18 – Therefore the Lord waits to be gracious to you, and therefore he exalts himself to show mercy to you. For the Lord is a God of justice; blessed are all those who wait for him.

Ecclesiastes 3:17 – I said in my heart, God will judge the righteous and the wicked, for there is a time for every matter and for every work.

Psalm 145:20 – The LORD keeps all who love Him, But all the wicked He will destroy.

Malachi 4:3 – “You will tread down the wicked, for they will be ashes under the soles of your feet on the day which I am preparing,” says the LORD of hosts.

Teaching Points

1. Habakkuk is a prophet. Not much else is known about him. His name means “embracer.” He was prophesying not long before Babylon’s first invasion of Judah in 605 B.C. Judah is in an active state of rebellion against the Lord. For decades the people have been spurning the counsel and warnings of the prophets. It is against this background that this exchange between Habakkuk and the Lord occurs.

2. Habakkuk asks the Lord why He allowed the people to sin without consequences. – In verses 2-4 we see that Habakkuk himself couldn’t tolerate all of the wickedness he saw around him. He sees “violence, iniquity, strife, destruction.” He sees the law being ignored and justice perverted. When we look at the question Habakkuk poses to the Lord we can clearly see his sensitive conscience. While others around him could go on living their own lives and not give the sin running rampant a second thought, Habakkuk could not. He knew God was holy and hates sin. And he himself had the same character quality.

His question arises out of his confusion. He knows and believes God is holy. But why is God not acting? Why is God allowing the sinner to escape unpunished?

We can learn several important lessons from Habakkuk here.

Application #1 – We should have a sensitive conscience toward sin. Jesus was angry when he saw the temple and His father being disrespected. Habakkuk is angry to see the sinful rebellion in his culture. How do you react when you see the sin around you? Like Habakkuk, God wants sin to disturb us. He wants us to be disgusted by it. Too many churches now turn a blind eye to sin in the name of “tolerance.” We can and should love the sinner, while still being disturbed by the sin. There are many sins in our culture. There are none of them which we should be accustomed to. We must also be careful that the sins of our culture do not spread to us. It is too easy to become like the sinful world around us. How can we make evaluate and make certain that culture around us is not molding us into its image?

Application #2 – It is normal and OK to be confused and have doubts about what is going on around us. God did not create blind and deaf robots. Neither does God mind if we sincerely question Him in order to increase our understanding about His nature and why He does things. Surely we are not to test God (Deuteronomy 6:16). But neither is it beneficial to hide our own feelings and thoughts from Him, which is an impossible task anyway.

Proverbs 25:2 – It is the glory of God to conceal a matter; to search out a matter is the glory of kings.

If we do not understand something, we should ask God and study His Scriptures. The very same question can be asked in sincerity or out of disbelief (or even hostility). Mary and Zachariah both asked the angel how the prophecy regarding their prospective children could come to pass. The angel rebuked Zachariah, but graciously answered Mary. Gabriel must have discerned that Mary asked out of a sincere desire to learn while Zachariah asked out of disbelief.

We do not need to act like something we are not. It is better to openly talk about our feelings to God than to conceal them and to pretend to be a super spiritual saint.

Application #3 – We should have a close relationship with God that is open like Habakkuk does. That means that God is our friend and we should feel free to talk to Him about anything. Do you talk to God about your own doubts or feelings?

II. God answers that He will judge their sin (5-11)

Discussion Questions

What does God tell Habakkuk to do in verse 5?
How will Habakkuk respond to His plan? What words are used in verse 5 which show how Habakkuk will respond?
Who are the Chaldeans?
How does God describe the Chaldeans? List out all the descriptive words He used for them here.
What is the picture that you are getting about this group of people?
Do they have any good qualities?
What is God going to use them for (verse 11)?
What lesson do we learn about God from this passage?

Cross-References

Ecclesiastes 12:14 – For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil.

Proverbs 16:4 – The LORD has made everything for its own purpose, Even the wicked for the day of evil.
Teaching Points

Teaching Points

1. God’s first command to Habakkuk is to “look” and “observe.” – Here in this text we can see that this is not a suggestion. Rather it is a command. In Proverbs 9:10 it says that “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of the wisdom.” In other words, if you want to be wise, you must study and observe, truly seeking to understand what God is doing. Put another way, if you ask a question of God, you must be willing to listen to the answer. Many people seek to test the Lord by asking Him questions in hostility and never intending to listen to the answer. Students may do the same with teachers that they dislike. God listens to Habakkuk’s question and He wants Habakkuk to truly pay attention to what He says. God is the source of all truth, all light, all wisdom. It does no good simply to vent frustration to God. The real benefit is when we sincerely seek to learn from Him. Then He will teach us.

Application – When you are confused or frustrated about the circumstances of your life around you turn to the Lord, not to the world. Open His Bible. Calm your heart. Pray. And seek direction and understanding from the Creator who holds all wisdom in His hand.

2. God allows Habakkuk to struggle with this new knowledge – God knows that Habakkuk is going to be surprised by His answer. It is far beyond his expectation. God says to him, “be astonished” and “wonder.” Is this a command, an imperative? I think that God is expressing here the factual reality of Habakkuk’s response. He knows that his answer will cause surprise and astonishment. And He basically tells Habakkuk, “Go ahead and be surprised. Go ahead and react. Go ahead and express your shock at what I am going to tell you.”

Here we learn an important lesson about God.

A. He is happy to have a dialogue with Habakkuk. He does not request or require complete silence. He does not say “You must accept what I am going to tell you without a word” or “you must instantly toss aside your own feelings and pretend complete agreement.” You see, God knows that Habakkuk will be shocked by this plan and will not understand it right away. And He is OK to slowly reveal Himself and allow Habakkuk to learn through the process. It is also interesting to note, that God knows what Habakkuk will ask next, but He doesn’t jump forward and give him all the answers at once. It appears from this that the process of acquiring wisdom is very important, and not only the end result.

Application – Teachers would do well to learn from God here. You should not censure students for asking sincere questions. Neither should you quickly give them all the answers right away. Sometimes much of the lesson is the struggle. There were many times growing up when I struggled over math problems. And my dad would never just tell me the answer. He gave me some hints and some instruction. But in the end, he wanted us to learn the lesson ourselves. That way we would never forget it. What are some other benefits of letting students struggle through the process of learning rather than giving all the answers right away?

2. God’s ways are not our ways – Habakkuk is shocked at God’s plan. He doesn’t comprehend it. This is normal. We often do not understand God’s purposes right away, and sometimes ever.

Isaiah 55:8-9 – “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.

God is not a person. He exists outside of our physical realm, outside of space and time. He sees all the intricacies about how every single action effects every other action. He sees the farthest ripples of the smallest pebble tossed into this world. God is completely good and completely powerful. When Moses asked God His name He answered, “I AM WHO I AM.” God is who He is and not who we expect or want Him to be. Habakkuk certainly would not have done things as God did. He didn’t understand it and He didn’t approve of it, at least not immediately. In the end our job is to have faith that what God is doing is for our good. While we should seek to understand, a lack of understanding is not a reason for not accepting what God chooses to do to His own creation.

3. God uses the wicked to accomplish His plans – In short, God’s answer to Habakkuk is that He is going to use the wicked Chaldeans to punish the Jews. Wicked people do not cooperate with God willingly. The Babylonians did not know they were being used by Him. Neither did they say, “Let us go to Judah to punish them for their sin against YHWH.” They were completely motivated by their own greed and selfishness. And yet God decided to use them to “sweep through” Judah like the wind (verse 11).

Psalm 10:3-6 – For the wicked man boasts in the cravings of his heart; he blesses the greedy and reviles the LORD. In his pride the wicked man does not seek Him; in all his schemes there is no God. He is secure in his ways at all times; Your lofty judgments are far from him; he sneers at all his foes. He says to himself, “I shall not be moved; from age to age I am free of distress.”

These are the type of people that God uses. They are like chess pieces on His board, each moving and acting according to their own will, but at the same time going exactly where God purposed ahead of time. Here is the paradox between God’s sovereignty and man’s own will. God uses the own choices people make (of their own volition) to accomplish His eternal plans. That is how powerful He is.

Judas was not seeking to serve the greater good when He betrayed Jesus to death, and yet he was. The Roman judges who imprisoned Paul were not planning for Paul to write epistles from prison which would be read by billions, and yet he did. Nebuchadnezzar was not intentionally giving God a platform to show his miracles when he commanded his subjects to worship the idol, but he did. The list goes on and on. Sinful people are used by God to accomplish His purposes just as righteous people are.

The key difference is that righteous people who willingly participate in God’s plan are rewarded while the wicked are judged.

4. The Babylonians were very wicked –

God uses many words to describe the Babylonians in verses 5-11. Here are a few:

  • Fierce
  • Impetuous
  • Dreaded
  • Feared
  • Justice originating from themselves
  • Swooping to devour
  • Violent
  • Mocking
  • Whose strength is their god

These are people God is going to use. God is not limited to use only people who want to serve Him.

III. Habakkuk asks why God uses the wicked to punish Judah (12-17)

Discussion Questions

What is Habakkuk’s view of God?
How does Habakkuk react to God’s “astonishing” answer?
Why is still confused?
What is the core of his concern with God’s stated plan (verse 13)?
How does he describe the Chaldeans in verses 15-17?
How does he describe how the Jews would be in God’s plan (fish to be hooked)?
What lessons can we learn from Habakkuk about communicating with God?

Cross-References

Isaiah 65:3 – And one called to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!”

Psalm 96:9 – Worship the Lord in the splendor of holiness; tremble before him, all the earth!

Teaching Points

1. Habakkuk has a high view of God – We see this in verses 12-13. He believes that God is everlasting, holy, and pure. He knows that God hates sin and cannot tolerate it. From these aspects Habakkuk’s view of God is correct. He also clearly understands what God is saying about His plan to use the Chaldeans to punish the Jews.

2. Habakkuk is “astonished,” just as God said he would be – Although Habakkuk understands God’s first answer, he cannot comprehend the “why” of it. Why would God choose to use the wicked? It is incomprehensible to him. We can see his incredulity seeping through all of these words. Read through the passage on your own adding in a tone of incredulity in these statements that Habakkuk makes and you will begin to feel how he felt.

He asks the question “why” three times in this passage. Habakkuk’s difficulty with this is similar to a modern day argument against God. The argument goes like this:

A. If God is all good, He would want to end sin and suffering.
B. If god is all powerful, He could end sin and suffering.
C. Sin and suffering still exist, so either God is not all good or He is not all-powerful.

Habakkuk does not this far. But in essence He does ask “God, I know you are good. So why do allow the wicked to punish those more righteous than they are?”

God’s answer in this next chapter is the same answer that shows the flaw in the above argument. We will look at His answer in depth in chapter two. Meanwhile, suffice it to say that God will end sin and suffering, He just hasn’t done it yet.

3. Habakkuk describes the situation in vivid terms – He describes the Chaldeans as fishermen and the Jews as fish. In verse 14 he asks God “Why have You made men like fish.” In other words, don’t treat us as fish to be captured by these cruel people! Remember that at the beginning of the chapter Habakkuk was bemoaning the fact that God seemed to be silent while the people around him engaged in sin and rebellion. God then told him that he would not be silent, but would punish the wrongdoer. Now Habakkuk is not so sure about the punishment. However, God’s justice is firm and His holiness never changes. Just as God’s job as judge is to deal with sin, so it is also right for Habakkuk to plead for his people.

Application: What application can you make from the passage today? How has your view of God grown? How can you communicate to God your feelings next time you are confused? What have you learned about the relationship between God and the wicked?

E-Book: If this study is helpful for you, see our complete Study Habakkuk Bible study guide available for download.

Study Habakkuk 2